Human Interest

WATCH: Woman with Down syndrome reacts with absolute joy when asked to be maid of honor

Down syndrome, Chris Granola

Chris Garafola has tens of thousands of followers on social media, a successful modeling career, and an upcoming wedding. But what sets him apart from many other influencers is his relationship with his sister, Brittany, who has Down syndrome. The two have a very close bond, and Garafola has always been open about the important role Brittany plays in his life. So Garafola knew his wedding wouldn’t be complete if Brittany wasn’t there — and her reaction when asked to be maid of honor for the happy couple has gone viral.

Like countless other families, the Garafola siblings have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In one Instagram post, Garafola spoke of how painful it’s been for their family. “I haven’t seen my sister since last October. And once the pandemic hit, I’ve distanced myself from Brittany in order to keep her healthy and safe,” he wrote. “My heart physically hurt not being able to see her and I would have days where I would just randomly break down and cry — not realizing how much weight I was truly carrying. But I can’t thank God enough, for keeping her healthy.”

READ: Video of model’s surprise party for sister with Down syndrome goes viral

And Brittany’s health was the most important thing for Garafola — so much so, that after getting engaged to his future bride, Tatiana, the couple decided to wait to have the wedding until Brittany could get her vaccine, as people with Down syndrome are at high risk of dying from COVID-19. Once she had, the couple had an emotional video call with Brittany, letting her know that not only was their wedding going to take place, but that she would be there, as Tatiana’s maid of honor. Brittany’s emotional response has quickly gone viral.

 

“We’ve wanted to get married for awhile now but due to COVID, we had to adjust our plans. One of these adjustments was we unfortunately couldn’t invite any of our friends to the wedding and only our immediate family could attend. We both agreed that there would be no wedding though unless Brittany could be there,” Garafola wrote on Instagram, adding that there’s another surprise in store for Brittany at the actual ceremony.

“We also bought her a beautiful ring that we’ll surprise her with when we see her — we truly want her to feel like she is a part of the ceremony,” he said. “When you have a sibling with Down syndrome, you don’t take marriage lightly. Your significant other needs to understand that although you are marrying them, you’re a package deal. From day one, I made it clear to Tatiana that Brittany and I were a package deal and that I had TWO best friends.”

The Garafola siblings have gone viral together before. In 2018, a video of a surprise birthday party for Brittany got millions of views, and when it did, Garafola made sure to speak about the importance of accepting people with disabilities. “I want people to question what they think is beautiful, and realize that everybody should have the same opportunities in this life no matter where they’re born or what they’re born with,” he told PEOPLE at the time, adding that Brittany is the most important person in his life.

“For me, my purpose here is to make sure my sister has a good life, is protected and is healthy,” he said. “Her happiness is my happiness, and that has held true from when we were kids to today.”

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